Police warning of church thefts

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Police are cracking down on thieves who steal metal from church roofs following a spate of incidents across the Sleaford area.

The force has issued the warning about the crime, and advice on how churches and owners of other old buildings can be protected from such thefts in future.

Back in September, the Standard reported on a series of thefts from churches in the area including St Mary’s Church in Main Street, Wilsford, St Mary and All Saints Church in Swarby, St Andrew’s Church in Kelby, an outbuilding at a property on Main Street, Wilsford, and St Mary’s Church on Creeton Road, Swinstead.

The theft from Swarby was estimated at around £30,000 and the major loss at Wilsford is quoted at nearer £80,000. The attacks are being seen as a ‘professional’ series of systematic raids on secluded churches in quiet areas within the space of a few hours.

Lincolnshire Police believe all these incidents are linked.

A force spokesman said: “The recent increase in the price of metal has also seen a rise in the theft of lead from churches across the county. With so many historic churches scattered across sparsely populated rural locations, Lincolnshire is an attractive target for metal thieves.

“Theft of lead isn’t just about the items removed. It can cause a considerable amount of secondary damage that can often restrict the use of parts of the building for a considerable time.

“Lincolnshire Police are making officers aware of the need to be vigilant and to stop suspicious vehicles. We will also be working within the county and with other forces to visit metal dealers, taking action where necessary.”

They have issued advice, which includes:

l Be on the alert for suspicious activity around the church and, if applicable, the village it serves and report it using 101. If you think a crime is in progress ring 999.

l Reduce the opportunity to lurk – while it’s not always practical to remove trees and shrubbery, reducing hedges to a metre can help to open up views into the area. Low wattage lighting placed around the building can also reduce the opportunity for criminals to hide in the shadows.

l Don’t leave things lying around that could assist a criminal. Secure bins that could be climbed on or ladders. Lock the church wherever it is practical or at least restrict access to the roof from the inside.

l Add security lights and an alarm system.

l Try some anti-climb treatments - which must be applied higher than 2.5m and accompanied by signage.

For more advice email sal